Christian Comfort for People in Agony
Resources for Hospital Chaplains, Ministries to Nursing Homes, Retirement Homes
By Leigh Merrett
(See Part 1)
My grief cannot be eased by weeping,
I find no comfort despite my seeking.
My heart is like a ship that’s sinking,
Thoughts of horror mar my thinking.
The Word promises peace, yet I find no rest.
The Word promises joy, yet I long for death.
I stagger, not walk. Lay down, not sleep.
I seek the Lord but find no comfort
I seek healing, yet sickness is triumphant.
I cannot hide from my pain,
Or be free of tormenting feelings of shame.
My heart screams, “Where is my help in time of need”?
I hear a whisper of a thought:
“Be patient my apprentice, for many of my sheep you shall feed.”
That I could cut out my broken heart to stop the pain.
That my crushed spirit would stop receiving blows.
That I would be healed, made whole, complete.
Christ’s love has become bitter.
My pain increases when I think of Him,
For it is He who refuses to bind my broken heart.
I had believed I was brine that the Lord would make sweet,
Instead, the waters of Marah have been poured down my throat.
I need strength, healing, encouragement.
Yet I am stabbed repeatedly, unendingly,
With weakness, sickness, and heartache.
To have my head thrust into coals of fire
Would be a relief compared to this.
How can I not be jealous of those
Free of pain in death?
Hope becoming dim.
Love not felt.
That this vile suffering is not God’s highest will
Exasperates the injustice.
I am weary, worn out.
It is not enough for Christ to break me and make me whole,
But my heart is repeatedly, excruciatingly, cracked.
Healing does not come,
Only fissures that tear through my heart.
I fear how my body will respond to the agony of the ceaseless inner pain.
My flesh is already ailing, but it cannot cope with more nails piercing my most tender place.
I am a dead man walking. Wanting to come alive in Christ,
Only to know that I have already received Him and He has already received me.
That Christ suffered for me intensifies my despair and confusion.
Why? Why would He do such a thing for me,
Only to have the power of God’s own blood
Fail to heal and bless and free and empower?
Yet as I wallow in the grief of this agony,
My Lover sends my soul a beautiful card
With a picture and a message.
The picture is of a stunning flower
Painted with swirls of gold and red;
Two colors representing the union of Father and child.
I am also shown an exquisite butterfly;
I the creature, He the wings.
His message frees my soul to carry on:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial
When it comes upon you to test you,
As though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s suffering,
That you also may rejoice and be glad
When His glory is revealed.
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will
Entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
My heart feels like a weight of stone so that I cannot move.
Ropes of fire bind me to the ground.
My mind taunts me, demons haunt me.
I have no strength, only weakness.
Clouds of confusion overwhelm.
My sorrow is so deep, I long to die.
My sick heart vomits bitterness.
I am fully clothed yet feel naked.
I cry out to Christ, yet relief does not come.
I plead, “Father!” yet remain the walking dead.
Yet an arrow of truth melts my broken heart:
‘When you stand in the glory of eternity,
You will thank Me for every ounce of adversity.’
Lord, on that day when your children shine brighter than the stars,
On that day when we stand triumphant in your grace,
On that day when we are adorned in the white purity of righteousness,
On that day when as one voice we shout your praise,
On that day when your life flows through us,
On that day when we stand among the angels,
On that day when we wear golden crowns of eternity,
On that day when we stand in your presence,
On that day when we behold your radiance,
On that day when you lift up your holy hands in welcome,
We will never again question your integrity.
You whisper into my heart and call me to your presence,
You wash me in your grace and instill in me reverence.
You beckon with wide-open arms and speak into my life peace,
You tenderly heal my wounds and reassure your blessings will not cease.
You say, ‘Be my slave, and you will be free,’
You say, ‘Look through faith, and you will truly see.’
You say, ‘The fruit of Christ is the greatest revelation’,
You say, ‘Come’, as my soul responds with adulation.
You say, ‘If I admonish, it is to deliver you from bondage’,
You say, ‘You be bold, for it is I who is your stronghold’.
You say, ‘I will cure the sick and heal of all wounds’,
You say, ‘Your heart will pulsate with love and make you swoon’.
You say, ‘The freedom of choice is my gift of trust,’
You say, ‘Lap up my water, and drink from my cup.’
I say, ‘Lord, how is it that there is a God as great as you?’
You reply with a smile, ‘Just know that I love you as I do.’
In the middle of the night an ambulance was called and Leigh, in severe pain, was rushed to hospital. While he was there, my dear friend, Steven Dibble, wrote the following for him.
As I was praying for you, the Holy Spirit just overwhelmed me with the sense of pain that you have. I am so sorry that you are going through this agonizing trial that seems to never end.
There has been a forerunner for you in this: Jesus, who is the man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He is the one that men hid their faces from due to his extreme torment.
The first thought I ever had when I read that the Father was pleased to put Jesus to grief was that he must have been happy about it. Now, as I see clearer, I understand that it is not that God was happy about Jesus' agony; it was that he was pleased at what it would accomplish. He saw your face as his adopted child through the cross of Christ. This is what pleased him; not the torment of his Son. God cried that day. The heavens and the earth were darkened. God was so grieved that there was a great earthquake.
Likewise, God is grieved for your torment. He hurts, and sheds tears for your many sorrows. Yet, as it is said, we who share in the sufferings of Christ also share in the inheritance of our Lord. The promise of a future inheritance is one thing, but what about now?
In your suffering you can enter into an intimacy with the Father that others cannot share in by faith. It is only available to those who share in the sufferings of Christ. Not only do you share in Christ's sufferings, Jesus shares with you in your suffering. He never will leave your side. The Lord showed this truth to me as the Spirit showed me your pain, and I wept with him for you.
My heart cried out in the bitter pain
as the tentacles of darkness overwhelmed me.
They wrapped their hands around inside twisting,
As the shards of broken glass are set deep.
I writhe and cry out,
No light do I see.
Yet in my heart I see dimly
Hope, a choice to rise above this painful life
And fill my heart with praise.
I choose to praise him who is my help, my light
Even if I am blinded by pain.
In my soul arises a peace,
A joy with sorrow mixed.
The Lord has come down to visit with me
And shed a tear for my heart;
To hold my hand,
And see me through
To the end of the trials that bind.
I trust in the One who has gone before,
Even when I cannot see.
I know my Lord is smiling;
He is pleased with me.
Not smiling for my pain,
For this his eyes do run.
It is that he stands for me in honor
And says; see my son?
To all of the angels he boasts.
The enemy cowers in darkness
As he tried to turn my heart away.
Yet the Lord looks, and says of me;
My wonderful son,
And righteous one,
With you I am pleased.
This truth remains, whether the Spirit shows us directly, or not. Even when we do not see, and continue to hope, and trust. Even if the trial remains, this truth is the same. The enemy would want to mock us in this. Do not give him an inch, my great brother. Yes, you are great. Surely those who go through the deepest sorrow, and pain, yet their faith stays true, are the greatest in the kingdom: God's masterpieces; his most righteous ones. You are a great brother, beloved of the Father. I am truly honored to pray for you, and feel a little of your pain as the Spirit weeps with me.
Just a couple of days before Christmas 2012, Leigh received an urgent call to go to hospital for a liver transplant. His health had been continually worsening year after year and now it was extremely serious. He had been looking so ill and his skin was such a bizarre color that strangers would stare at him. Despite an incredibly high pain tolerance, his poor liver function had been causing him to itch agonizingly. I saw him in hospital on Christmas Day and he was already looking better and his itch had lessened. In just a day, however, he began to deteriorate. Tests indicated that his body was not accepting his liver. He was exhausted, having had almost no sleep for days due to the surgery, hospital noises and so on, and now his itch had returned worse than ever. In the middle of the night in hospital, in too much agony to sleep, he wrote the following:
Be the Center, Mighty One.
Be my Center.
Let your faithfulness and kindness alone carry me,
I have nothing of myself.
I have nothing to give you now but the pain of a body and confusion of a mind;
But when doctors ignore me, you do not forget your servant.
When nurses get distracted, Emperor of Eternity you remain.
Your love is my strength and my hope, and you alone will bring me to the breaking day.
I don’t care about philosophies and vanities and errors and mistakes, because you,
Father, encamp with me in these broken hours.
One night of restless suffering is paradise if you are with me, my Redeemer,
Even now after these hours I would hate a restful sleep,
Beloved, if it came apart from you.
My God, I will bless you among these symptoms through the praise of your sovereign grace.
Let me never again sing ‘praise’ that doesn’t come with greatest depth of your mercy.
And as this night ends and my lesser prayers are answered,
Even then it will be you who have made breakfast on the seashore.
Even then it is you, who again has swept me away.
So, Father, I give you this broken night.
And I give you tomorrow’s reprieve and joy.
But I can give you nothing, but the tears that know of your sovereign love.
I love you, my fellow Sufferer of a light and momentary affliction
No less now then when I let out roars of Glory’s Highest Conviction.
When wrongs are righted and your majestic steed takes flight,
I will be among your children of Joy,
Who follow your trail-blazing light,
Knowing it was not man’s hard-won fought to God
But a generous Father’s choice.
Comments? Prayer Request?
Grantley’s Mail Box: firstname.lastname@example.org
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